Brick-and-Mortar’s Time to Shine

The spiders, black cats, and tombstones have barely been moved from front-and-center to their spot in the clearance section. A few harvest displays may have claimed some prime real estate, but the big location-hog right now is everything Holiday.

Though a few people complain every year that retailers seem to be displaying Holiday-themed merchandise earlier and earlier, there really hasn’t been much of a change in the retail marketing calendar in the past few decades. The brick-and-mortar hours of operation during the Thanksgiving 4-day weekend has been the big news-maker lately, but when the displays start showing up on the sales floor, not so much.

This Holiday season of 2019 marks one of the shortest it can possibly be, with the fewest number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That makes for some very intense goal-setting sessions as each day takes on an even bigger burden than usual.

Undoubtedly, there will be lots of news stories of how much everyone is purchasing online this year. Online sales continue to grow, however brick-and-mortar sales, especially during the Holiday season, are still the vast majority of the pie. This will most likely hold true in 2019, especially when shoppers get “surprised” by how short the window is between turkey day and Christmas Eve.

During this Holiday season, a brick-and-mortar retailer has a big opportunity to take advantage of that foot traffic that is bound to cross the threshold. Being prepared is the key.

Did You See That Window? If your storefront has windows, when was the last time you took a look from the customers’ viewpoint? To a seasoned retailer, the answer is most likely “this morning”. But honestly, can you say that you walk your window displays every morning? Are you confident that your team does? The store windows should be vibrant, fun, elegant, amusing, clever, or whatever adjective embodies the essence of the brand of your store. Your windows are the customers’ first impression of your store. Make sure that first impression is a good one.

Just Looking. If everyone who works in retail had a dollar for every time they heard that response from a customer, we’d all be millionaires. Even the “just looking” customer stepped into the store with some intent in mind though. Something caught their eye. Something made them curious. Something caused them to want to step inside. And that is exactly what the sales team needs to focus on. The best salespeople understand that they first must establish a connection with the potential customer. The best way to do that is to ask good, open-ended questions. Build a rapport; have a conversation. Don’t make the mistake of trying to zero in on exactly what a customer is possibly looking for before a connection has been established.

Who? Who? And You? Once a conversation has begun, it’s time to start digging a bit deeper. Who are they shopping for today? Who else is on their list? And what about them? Any parties or gatherings on their calendar? What do they need for their wardrobe/home/hostess gift/gift exchange/parties/stocking stuffers? These are all great conversation starters. It is truly all about them, the customer. Discovering their needs, asking questions, clarifying information, and matching product knowledge to solve their problems will turn “just looking” traffic into purchasing customers.

Sensory Overload. Have you ever experienced that pressure of needing to find just the right gift or the right outfit, but when faced with a store display that had way too much merchandise, no clear theme or clarity of offer, you simply give up and walk away? Shopping can be challenging, and the choices overwhelming. Many people like to think they know exactly what they want, that they’ll know-it-when-they-see-it, and that they know how much they are willing to pay for it. But our brains can only consciously process so much information at one time. When we get overwhelmed by choices, a common reaction is to just shut down and not make a choice.

Retailers must be vigilant in ensuring excellence in the execution of merchandising and presentation to inspire pride of ownership. Everything that a customer can see, touch, feel, hear and smell while in your store contributes to a positive experience – or a not so positive one. Consistency is critical here, especially for a brand/retailer that has multiple locations. A customer should be able to visit your multiple locations and though each physical space may be unique, they should still be able to feel they are experiencing your brand in a consistent manner, and in the manner you intended.

What’s the Follow Up Plan? So, you have done your preparations, your team is trained, the store is set, now here comes the traffic. The sales are great, money’s been deposited, you’ve had a successful Holiday. Now what? There are several stories and myths as to why the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday. One version is that it was the first day of the fiscal calendar when the accounting books shifted from operating “in the red” to “in the black”, meaning the store was actually making money. After the rush of the Holiday peak, it’s a long stretch of time until we hit another natural traffic peak. There is no better time to capture interest in future business than when all of that traffic is naturally coming into your store.

Most importantly, having employees who love what they do and who are excited and enthusiastic about their jobs will create a great experience that will be remembered by your customers. But what can you do during this Holiday season to get your customers interested in returning to your store within the weeks/months after the season is over?

What events can you create that will keep your customers intrigued and excited to return to your location again and again? Brick-and-mortar retail is shifting to experiential shopping. Give your customers a reason to return. There’s no better time to market your upcoming events than when they are right in front of you, during this Holiday season.

Best of luck with your Holiday peak business!

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